UFC lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov will undergo a significant change in preparation for his title unification bout with UFC interim lightweight champion Justin Gaethje at UFC 254.
Nurmagomedov typically conducts his training camps at the American Kickboxing Academy (AKA) in San Jose, California. That will not be the case ahead of his big-stakes matchup with Gaethje. His head coach Javier Mendez says that Nurmagomedov will not train in the United States.
“We’ve got two choices [for the fight], right? Las Vegas or Fight Island,’” Mendez told ESPN. “I’m thinking Fight Island, but they haven’t said it yet. What I do know is that [COVID-19] is too high in California, and Khabib is not comfortable coming here to train. So I’m gonna go to Dagestan to train him and we’ll go from there... Where the fight is gonna be, 100 percent, I don’t know but I know this, I’m going to him. That I do know. I’m going to train him in Dagestan or wherever he chooses to go, but we’re not training in San Jose.”
Dagestan looks like the frontrunner for where Nurmagomedov will train. Either way, Mendez will be by Nurmagomedov's side wherever "The Eagle" soars. The lightweight champion is still mourning the loss of his father, and Mendez says Nurmagomedov is focusing on the legacy that Abdulmanap wanted for the fighter.
“I did speak to him for the first time about two weeks ago, and he’s still going through missing his father,” Mendez said. “Rightfully so. The way they were connected, his father was pretty much his everything. Having his father’s blessing gave him that power to go out and do what he needed to do. Everything his father wanted him to do, Khabib would go out and accomplish it. Now, he doesn’t have that. So, he’s gotta focus on the legacy his father wanted for him and live through that. Do something great for the legacy of your father.”
UFC 254 takes place on Saturday, October 24 from a to-be-determined location. Khabib Nurmagomedov vs. Justin Gaethje will headline the card. Fightful is providing live coverage of the event, which streams live on ESPN+ pay-per-view.